September 11, 2017

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: University of Illinois
Investigator(s): Wing Suen Lau and Bob Weedon
Grant Amount: $5,500
Project Type: Summer Scholar
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

This University of Illinois Summer Scholar research project explored the use of probiotics to decrease occurrences of diarrhea in shelter cats. Forty-four cats were given a Fortiflora-supplemented meal for seven days. Seven percent of probiotic-treated cats developed diarrhea for more than two days, compared to 16% of the control group, suggesting that Fortiflora can be beneficial in reducing the number of cats with diarrhea in shelters.


To explore the effects of probiotics and determine whether they can be used as an effective preventative measure to lower the incidence of stress-induced diarrhea in shelter cats


A total of 87 adult cats and kittens from PAWS Chicago's Medical Center were randomly divided into control group (n=43) and treatment groups (n=44). A probiotic, feline Fortiflora, was added to the treatment group's meals 1x daily for seven days starting on the day of intake. No probiotics were given to the control group. A fecal flotation test was conducted for each cat the day after intake (or when a fecal sample was first available) to ensure there was no difference in parasite loads between the groups. Each cat's fecal score was recorded daily and monitored for changes using Purina's fecal scoring chart. Additionally, researchers noted any symptoms of upper respiratory infection to determine if Fortiflora had any secondary influence on preventing or shortening the infection's duration.


  • 7% of cats given probiotics developed diarrhea lasting >2 days vs. the control group (16%).
  • More kittens in the control group developed diarrhea >2 days than in the treatment group, whereas this is the reverse for the number of adults with diarrhea. However, this is not particularly significant in this study as a lot more kittens were included than adults.
  • No noteworthy statistical difference between groups regarding upper respiratory infection


The results of this study suggest that while Fortiflora is not the ultimate answer for preventing diarrhea in shelter cats upon intake, it can have a potential impact on decreasing the number of cats with diarrhea by establishing a healthy gut flora, and thereby diminishing the amount and cost of veterinary intervention in treating them. It may be helpful for shelters to supplement Fortiflora to animals upon intake as a prophylactic treatment.